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Opened Nearly 50-years Ago, California's Golden Door Undergoing Renovation
and Restoration Under New Private Ownership

by Bernard Burt
February 2013

Elation behind the Golden Door is coming from staff as well as guests at the famed Southern California resort.

The exciting news: a long-time guest is the new owner of Golden Door.

Plans to revive the resort's golden era were revealed by founder Deborah Szekely during her recent visit to Washington. A former resident, now living in San Diego, the 91-year-old doyenne of American spas is honorary chair of the Washington Spa Alliance.

"When we told the staff that a private investor was taking over," Deborah said, "there were cheers of elation."  Golden Door is raising the bar on privacy. With suites for just 39 guests, the week-long program is more comprehensive, the all-inclusive cost is $7,750.

While the new owner wishes to remain anonymous, Golden Door's long-time manager Rachel Caldwell is busy with renovation and restoration of the facilities. One tradition isn't changing: Deborah Szekely's dinner talk. She looks forward to inviting wellness specialists to enhance the week-long retreat.

Opened nearly 50 years ago in a wooded canyon north of San Diego, the 377-acre resort quickly became a favorite hideaway for the rich and famous. The Zen-inspired oasis inspires you to refocus and reenergize. Peaceful walks along stone walkways and waterfalls of the Japanese gardens lead to gyms and a fitness center.

The ownership change also affected resort spas formerly operated as a Golden Door franchise, such as El Conquistador in Puerto Rico. These affiliations have been terminated by the new owner of Golden Door.

Formerly owned by the Blackstone Group, Golden Door was part of Luxury Resorts (LXR), a hospitality company that focuses on luxury hotels, including The Peaks in Telluride, CO, which had a large Golden Door spa. After the acquisition of Hilton Hotels Corporation by Blackstone, it started to rename some of the properties as Hilton or member of The Waldorf=Astoria Collection, but kept the original Golden Door in Escondido, CA, unchanged.

About the Author:
Bernard Burt defined healthy lifestyle experiences for Fodor's Healthy Escapes (1986), documented "100 Best Spas of the World" for Globe-Pequot (2000); and expands coverage of wellness resorts in "Spectacular Spas" (2013) and online at Examiner. com. Founding director of the International Spa Assn. (ISPA), he is chairman emeritus of The Washington Spa Alliance, tracks trends for Spa Management Journal. E-mail him at


Bernard Burt

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